First Grade





Burgi Labarca: “First grade is where children blossom into students for life.”



I have wanted to become a teacher since the third grade and have never regretted my choice. My own love for learning and the challenges I encountered along the way have inspired me to become a teacher. Together with my students, I create an environment that is full of joy and respect. I treat “mistakes” as opportunities for growth and learning.

I like working at The Academy because I have the freedom to teach in a way that is personal and informed by my life experiences. It is a community where learning is joyful. I find purpose and joy in interacting with young children. My students are genuine, open, loving, and inspiring! I cannot imagine spending my workdays in a better or more creative way.


Language Arts


My main goal is to create a love for reading. I focus on expanding sight vocabulary, reaching fluency, and developing solid comprehension skills. I use a literature-based curriculum in which we read the following books: Johnny Appleseed, Frog and Toad Are Friends, Stellaluna, A Chair For My Mother, Emperor Penguins, One, Rosa Parks, Helen Keller, Willow, and A Mouse Called Wolf.


We learn both technical and creative writing. I expose students to both types of writing by modeling. With respect to technical writing, I teach new spelling and phonetic concepts each week. I reinforce these concepts through homework assignments. The cycle runs from Wednesday through Wednesday and the students complete the cycle with a weekly test. I also teach grammar, in which I focus on complete sentence writing. I teach students about nouns and verbs and learn how to identify them.

Our expository writing skills culminate in an end of the year “Animal Report”, which each student presents to the rest of the class. Oral Presentation of this report is the highlight of the year for each individual student. They have a chance be the expert and teacher. It is an opportunity to truly shine!

I also teach creative writing, where the goal is for students to express their ideas. We spend time developing the structure of a story, including its beginning, middle, and end. We learn to expand by adding more details to each of these three parts. Eventually, students are able to share their stories with peers and learn to give and receive feedback.


In first grade we solidify and build upon concepts that the students were exposed to in kindergarten. Students will practice and memorize addition and subtraction facts. They will also learn proper mathematical vocabulary so they can accurately express math problems and solutions. I often use manipulatives when I introduce new concepts. I teach students various ways to approach math problems. I foster my students’ critical thinking skills through modeling, questioning, and peer discussions. My students learn the following mathematical concepts:

  • Calendar and time
  • Numbers and patterns to 100
  • Place value
  • Data and graphing
  • Money
  • Addition and subtraction up to 3 digit numbers with regrouping
  • Multiplication and division using counting patterns
  • Geometry and measurement
  • Fractions of a whole and of a group

My main goals with respect to math are for students to: 1) See math as a way to identify patterns; 2) Understand mathematical concepts as they relate to daily life (be on time, shopping, sharing, cooking, traveling etc.); and 3) Appreciate different paths to solving the same problem.

Social Studies

I teach social studies through study units that involve holidays or significant figures in history. Examples include: Thanksgiving (Immigration, Native Americans), Rosa Parks (Black History), and Helen Keller (Women’s History). Students will also be exposed to map skills and geography. My main goal with respect to Social Studies is that my students gain an appreciation for our personal history as well as that of important individuals and different cultures. I teach my students to understand that we are part of a bigger world and community and have the capacity and responsibility to contribute in positive ways.


Burgi Labarca was born and raised on a small family farm in Switzerland. She earned her elementary teaching credential in Switzerland. Subsequently, she earned a primary Montessori credential and worked for many years as a teacher in a Montessori school in Southern California. She has been teaching as a first grade teacher at the Academy since 2004.

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